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March 1, 2008
Today's eMo is really two different meditations on texts that will be heard in many churches this Sunday. The first is the usual sermon preparation eMo. The second, intended for preachers who wish to focus their congregations' attention on the Church's work with the victims of natural disasters and war, considers some aspect of the worldwide ministry of Episcopal Relief and Development. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution, No further permission is necessary.

An Astonishing Thing. Funny, Too.

Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.
John 9:30

There must be something about the religion business that causes people who work hard in it to focus on small things while the big ones go completely over their heads. The scribes and Pharisees who simply cannot stop talking about a healing miracle being performed in violation of Sabbath regulations are oblivious to the fact that one has actually been performed, all but right before their eyes, something which surely cannot have happened every day. I think this story must have made the people who heard it laugh; it makes me laugh, centuries later. Church! It doesn't change.

You what?!? You went in and prayed with that person in the hospital, and you aren't even an official member of the prayer team? We'll have to see about that.

You did what? You had a neat idea and got some people together to talk about it without vestry approval? Who do you think you are?

Um, a child of God? Oh, never mind. I promise not to do it again.

Of course there needs to be order in an organization. And any group needs to know what's going on among its members. But groups are famous for becoming so entranced with their internal processes that they lose sight of the mission those processes are intended to support, and it seems to me that this is really a story about that, as much as it is a story about a miracle -- much more of the narrative is devoted to the poor healed man having to defend his miracle to the authorities than to the miracle itself.

If we didn't think of it, it can't be any good and it might be dangerous. If we didn't authorize it, it shouldn't happen. If it's not the usual thing, there must be something wrong with it. Where are its credentials?

But every one of our traditions was once an unusual thing. If all we can ever do are the things we already do, nothing can change. It will take a miracle.


Lent IV, Year A
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41
Psalm 23

And here is the ERD meditation:

Still Healing the Blind

Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.
John 9:32

This month has seen the worst flooding in years in the southern African countries of Malawi and Zambia. Entire villages have been washed away by the Zambesi River, along with the fields of crops that fed them. At least 50 people have died, thousands have been forced from their homes and the rains are expected to continue.

It is not just the immediate and obvious need for food and shelter that makes a flood so serious -- there is an ongoing danger of waterborne disease. River blindness, for instance, once the scourge of Africa, has been significantly reduced by early treatment and protection against the black flies that spread it. But the black flies swarm when the river floods, and in the chaos of rescue and recovery, the disease is again a danger. A simple regimen of medication can halt the effects of the disease in an individual.

And so it is not just food and shelter; medicine is also needed. It really does open the eyes of the blind -- or, at least, prevents many from sinking into blindness as the result of a disaster. The people on the ground in Africa know this very well: the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi, Episcopal Relief and Developmentā€™s partner, is distributing medicine for river blindness and other waterborne disease along with emergency food, sheltering material and fuel. Then it will be time to replant this year's crop.
To learn more about ERD, or to make a donation, visit or telephone 1-800-334-7626, ext 5129.
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